Smurfs Turn 50
What sort of pop culture website would ComicMix be if we did not salute the 50th anniversary of The Smurfs? That’s right, it was on this day that Belgian cartoonist Peyo’s (a.k.a. Pierre Culliford) first published drawings featuring those blue cuties.
It all began in 1952 when the artist began a strip called Johan et Pirlouit (translated as Johan and Peewit), in Le Journal de Spirou. On this date in 1958, the Smurfs appeared in the storyline, “La flûte à six trous”. While seeking a magic flute, Johan and Pirlouit encountered a being called Schtroumpf. Audiences were enchanted and within a year, Smurf solo stories began appearing in Spirou followed almost immediately by the first merchandising.
Over time, the society and culture of the Smurfs took shape from the look of Smurf Village to the personalities of the various and seemingly endless supply of inhabitants. They weren’t as well known in America until Hanna-Barbera corrected the oversight with an animated series. The show debuted September 12, 1981 and ran without break until December 2, 1989. By then, a total of 421 stories were crafted, totaling 256 total half hour programs.
The 1980s were filled with Smurf merchandise and memorabilia and then, as with all things, the fad faded and they were relegated to American nostalgia while the Smurfs continued to be immensely popular in throughout Europe. They have been associated with UNICEF for years, adding a humanitarian element to the property.
Sony recently announced there would be a live-action/animated feature film to be written by David Stem and David Weiss, the men behind Shrek 2 and Shrek The Third and produced by Jordan Kerner (Charlotte’s Web). Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman-CEO Michael Lynton grew up with Les Schtroumpfs in the Netherlands, promoting the studio to pick up the rights when they became available.
“The Smurfs are one of the best-known franchises, and among the most beloved collection of characters in the world,” Columbia co-president Doug Belgrad said. “We’re very excited to introduce a new generation to Papa Smurf, Smurfette and the other smurftastic Smurfs in all of their ‘three-apple-tall’ glory.”
As part of the celebration, a new giant Smurf helium balloon and float will appear in the 82nd annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. A new wave or merchandise will be available at the February Toy Fair, meaning 2009 may well be the year the Smurfs return to American prominence.